Agreement between CP and Amtrak about Detroit River Tunnel

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Amtrak25

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The train will inevitably stop at a red signal somewhere, creating the opportunity for abuse. As long as that possibility exists, the prospect is unlikely. As has been pointed out earlier in this thread (and in past ones where this has been discussed) the most direct route no longer exists. If a proposed train were to use the best currently available routing, the time consumed by customs stops would forfeit any time advantage over an all-US route. Make even one stop in Canada (e.g. Aldershot to connect to Toronto) and the whole discussion is moot - unless by some miracle the passenger traffic justified it.

Even if they sealed the train except for one coach for a stop (like Aldershot or London), as they once did on 63/64 and the CP/VIA Atlantic, that wouldn't fly today. Customs will simply say how do we know you didn't unlock the gangway door during the trip. As I said, remember the mentality you are dealing with. They are just as ruthless and untrusting of train crews as they are with passengers. They'll even go ruffling through bags marked "Crew'.
 

jis

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Moderator's Notes: All the posts above this point were moved into this new thread on possibilities arising from the CP-Amtrak Agreement on passenger service through the Detroit River Tunnel. They were moved from the LSL Timetable Change thread:

 

Bob Dylan

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neroden

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Again, assuming things stay the same as far as infrastructure capabilities and operating practices go, there will be significant timetabling challenges for a diverted east coast to Chicago train via Detroit.

Well, then Amtrak needs to compare those costs vs. the costs of setting up equipment servicing and turnaround facilities in Detroit.

Because one of the biggest unserved demands for Amtrak across the entire US is New York City to Detroit, followed closely by Upstate NY to Detroit. At one point NY-Detroit was the most requested unserved city pair by people calling the Amtrak phone number.

Amtrak needs a Detroit to NY train, and based on travel demand, it should be going via Ohio and upstate NY.

(For reasons I don't fully understand, there are a lot of social links between Michigan and upstate NY; fewer between Michigan and Pennsylvania, so the Pittsburgh-Detroit connection is less important. A route via Canada would not be time-competitive for either NYC-Detroit or upstate NY-Detroit due to customs, and would also not have as many online passengers as a route via Ohio.)

Would it be easier to terminate it at Detroit, or to continue it to Chicago, providing an extra Detroit-Chicago service and getting some extra revenue and economies of scale that way? Probably to continue it to Chicago.

Let's not mislead anyone here: the purpose of this would be to provide a Detroit-NY train. If Amtrak decides it's time to build a servicing location in Detroit, then perhaps the calculations would be different. It's certainly worth running the numbers both ways -- NY-Upstate NY-Detroit vs. NY-Upstate NY-Detroit-Chicago -- but I'm pretty sure the second one will come out more cost-effective. Unless Amtrak is already building a servicing location and crew base at Detroit for some other reason.

This should, ideally, be additional to the direct upstate NY - Chicago train, the LSL -- there is certainly enough demand for both.
 
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neroden

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What about just diverting a Pontiac train to Toledo and connect with the Lake Shore Ltd, which Mercer Consulting told Tom Downs to kill ?
If the schedule timing lined up so the wait at Toledo wasn't too long, but also was reliable when the trains were somewhat late, then sure, that would work. Toledo is a perfectly nice station to change trains at.
 

Burns651

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For reasons I don't fully understand, there are a lot of social links between Michigan and upstate NY;...

It may well be a legacy of how so many towns in MI were founded by New York people and often named after NY places. Tons of newcomers arrived from NY via the Erie Canal, and later via the Great Western Ry's lines to Sarnia and Windsor. No corresponding direct link to PA.
 
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neroden

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It may well be a legacy of how so many towns in MI were founded by New York people and often named after NY places. Tons of newcomers arrived from NY via the Erie Canal, and later via the Great Western Ry's lines to Sarnia and Windsor. No corresponding direct link to PA.
Makes sense. I discovered after talking to friends from Michigan that Lansing, MI is actually named after Lansing, NY (which is right next door to Ithaca) because a bunch of the people who settled there were actually from right here.

There's also a historic sign explaining that one of the hills around here used to be called "Michigan Hill" because the farmer who lived here kept saying he was going to move to Michigan.
 

Willbridge

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As the discussion has been pretty comprehensive, and as an expert on sealed trains watched by hard men with a variety of weapons, I'll just add my votes:
  • Yes to rail links between the U.S. and Canada.
  • No to running through Canada for U.S. to U.S. travel.
  • Maybe to running through the U.S. for Canada to Canada travel.
The difference is that the Canada to Canada routes are so remote that it'd be easier to spot train jumpers on or off in the nearby communities. However, from a marketing point of view, border controls on domestic trips aren't very saleable. Europe has had a variety of experiences, but most of them were on backwater routes.

The big exception was access for West Berlin and it was a miracle that real-life incidents were kept under control. One of them became a movie....

Stop Train 349 Etc-39.jpg
 
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toddinde

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Unfortunately, the Canada Southern railroad was ripped up, meaning that the route from Buffalo to Windsor is... indirect. So maybe less congestion, but probably not higher speeds. :-(
I think Toronto as a destination is better than Buffalo anyway. As speeds increase, changing trains in Toronto for points east might not be much slower than the Canada Southern was.
 

JWM

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I am asking myself why the access issue to the Detroit River tunnel. The only logical solution I can think of consists of two parts. One, VIA Rail gets access to Detroit, but there would have to be a customs facility there for both the U.S. and Canada. Second would be a through Chicago-Toronto train, but what about customs clearance for both countries. Back before Amtrak, GTW had an overnight Chicago-Toronto train. I gave the Pullman car porter my birth certificate, that's all you needed then, and Canadian customs never disturbed me. Ah, the good old days.
 

rs9

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If this train originated in Detroit instead of Chicago-NYP via Canada, would it be feasible - or reasonable - for passengers to clear Canadian customs before even setting foot on the train? This is the practice at NYP for the Adirondack to Montreal, I believe.

Now, that might not address the reverse problem of wily Canadians somehow boarding the train and sneaking into the U.S....
 

neroden

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I am asking myself why the access issue to the Detroit River tunnel. The only logical solution I can think of consists of two parts. One, VIA Rail gets access to Detroit, but there would have to be a customs facility there for both the U.S. and Canada. Second would be a through Chicago-Toronto train, but what about customs clearance for both countries. Back before Amtrak, GTW had an overnight Chicago-Toronto train. I gave the Pullman car porter my birth certificate, that's all you needed then, and Canadian customs never disturbed me. Ah, the good old days.
Since Customs & Immigration looks likely to be complicated and unpleasant for the forseeable future, I'm just accepting that.

Detroit's Michigan Central Station is *plenty* large enough to have US and Canadian customs facilities and three different access paths to the platforms (one for domestic trains, one for departures to Canada, one for arrivals from Canada) to satisfy whatever Customs & Immigration wants. It seems quite feasible to me, and apparently Ford who owns the building is cooperative.
 
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Since Customs & Immigration looks likely to be complicated and unpleasant for the forseeable future, I'm just accepting that.

Detroit's Michigan Central Station is *plenty* large enough to have US and Canadian customs facilities and three different access paths to the platforms (one for domestic trains, one for departures to Canada, one for arrivals from Canada) to satisfy whatever Customs & Immigration wants. It seems quite feasible to me, and apparently Ford who owns the building is cooperative.
I thought that there were access issues - track-wise - from Central Station to the tunnel (or was that from the current station?)?
 

Burns651

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Since Customs & Immigration looks likely to be complicated and unpleasant for the forseeable future, I'm just accepting that.

Detroit's Michigan Central Station is *plenty* large enough to have US and Canadian customs facilities and three different access paths to the platforms (one for domestic trains, one for departures to Canada, one for arrivals from Canada) to satisfy whatever Customs & Immigration wants. It seems quite feasible to me, and apparently Ford who owns the building is cooperative.
Ford seems cooperative, though I doubt it's reserving specific building space, however modest Amtrak's requirements will be, to handle a hypothetical future passenger train. The area directly behind the station is earmarked for Ford's "mobility testing" area. It might end up easier to build a small building trackside to handle passenger service.

Ford destroyed the passenger platforms and all the supporting steelwork (much of it quite deteriorated) for the passenger platforms and tracks. The express platform and support structure for the express track and 7 freight tracks (only 2 still exist) remain. Plenty of room to handle passenger trains there. Attached recent photo originated at the "Pure Detroit" site. mc.jpg
 
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Willbridge

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Not a chance. There are currently no examples where Canadian border officers operate in other countries. This differs from the US where officers do pre-clearance in places like Canada, Aruba and Ireland. AFAIK, provision was made for a Canadian "office" in the Niagara Falls, NY, Amtrak station, however this never materialized due to "union" issues - long before a pandemic made it all academic. I'm not even sure whether the US would permit "foreign" officers to operate on US soil, but the issues run much deeper than that.
Something changed during the interval between May 1, 1971 and the restoration of some of the cross-border trains. Prior to that, Canada Customs boarded the Internationals at Mt. Vernon, Washington and rode to White Rock, BC. In 1965 and 1966 when we ran a weekend excursion PDX<>VAC on the NP/CP line, Canada Customs and Immigration officers boarded the train at Sedro-Wooley and rode to Huntingdon, BC.

The Immigration officer asked Tour Director Bob Krebs (later of Oregon DOT) if all of the passengers were born in the U.S. Bob looked at me, I looked at him, and we agreed, "sure." The officer wrote it down and we rolled into Canada.
 

dwebarts

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The Immigration officer asked Tour Director Bob Krebs (later of Oregon DOT) if all of the passengers were born in the U.S. Bob looked at me, I looked at him, and we agreed, "sure." The officer wrote it down and we rolled into Canada.
I miss those days. With a Canadian mother, we border hopped frequently. I remember a solo drive between Detroit and Buffalo (the shortest drive is through Ontario) in the eighties where the US Customs agent in Buffalo and I exchanged a total of four words.

"Citizen?"
"US"
"Anything?"
"No"

Having Michigan plates contributed to the assumption I was taking the shortcut I'm sure.

Having an easier cross-border connection for Amtrak would be great. In college, I gave a ride to a classmate between Chicago and Windsor so he could catch his train to Toronto. It was only a little out of the way since I was headed to Dearborn. Chicago-Toronto would be a popular route, albeit a bit longer than it would have been before 9/11 when crossings became more complicated.
 

GoAmtrak

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Not a chance. There are currently no examples where Canadian border officers operate in other countries. This differs from the US where officers do pre-clearance in places like Canada, Aruba and Ireland. AFAIK, provision was made for a Canadian "office" in the Niagara Falls, NY, Amtrak station, however this never materialized due to "union" issues - long before a pandemic made it all academic. I'm not even sure whether the US would permit "foreign" officers to operate on US soil, but the issues run much deeper than that.
I don't get it what the Canadian authorities consider as the problem.

Is the difference between Canada and the US that big? Is it because of the huge amount of weapons Canadian authorities are afraid they could come to Canada from the US? Perhaps a little bit off topic, I'm just wondering.

In Switzerland, there are multiple trains arriving and leaving everyday to/from Germany, Austria, Liechtenstein, Italy and France. Border controls either happen in trains or you arrive in a sort of check-point when you try to exit a border train station. But it would not be an option to just deny entry or departure of trains because of anything concerning border patrols, at least not in Western Europe.

How long have I been advocating for that? There's only 60 miles of track to fix up between Dearborn and Toledo. The track from Dearborn to Porter, Indiana is passenger-operator-controlled track, avoiding NS-caused delays. There's enough room in the ROW from Toledo to Detroit to have a passenger-controlled track (there are currently four tracks plus vacant land on the direct route, and alternate ROWs, too). If South of the Lake ever gets funded for the Chicago approach, as it should, we could have a passenger-operator-controlled route from Chicago Union all the way to Toledo....

Anyway, in the Canada department, what we might see is the reopening of Detroit Michigan Central Station, customs at that location, a Detroit - Toronto train operated by VIA, and a Chicago-Detroit Michigan Central train.
I agree with you.

Without the border control issues, Detroit - Toronto could have a big potential in my eyes. I'm excited about Amtrak and the Detroit River tunnel. Additionnally thanks to the acquistion of the Detroit River Tunnel will bring re-use of the wonderful Detroit Michigan Central Station into consideration. Having Michigan Central Station as a new old Amtrak station could draw more interest from tourists perhaps just because of the fame of the old station.

As I mentioned before, I would, like you, also consider Detroit - Toledo more seriously, as infrastructure seems largely to be there already. Perhaps the state of Michigan could acquire a complete line from the freight companies to secure a reliable access, like it was the case with other routes in Michigan (if I'm not wrong). Then you could go from Detroit to Cleveland by train again. Would be great.

Here's an article about the acquisition of the Detroit River Tunnel: Cross-border rail tunnel passenger service moves step closer
I don't know how close or realistical passenger service between Detroit and Canada is, but I doubt Amtrak would reach agreements if they don't intend to use it.

What is positive to is that CP seems willing to work together with Amtrak, in contrast to the juristical fights ongoing between Amtrak and freight companies in the Southern Gulf east of New Orleans.
 
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Amtrak25

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The article's and Amtrak's happytalk is focused on the CP.

If passengers have to get off the train for 2 hours at Detroit and Windsor as they do now at each Niagara Falls, the service will not commercially work as far as international travel goes.
 

toddinde

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Since Customs & Immigration looks likely to be complicated and unpleasant for the forseeable future, I'm just accepting that.

Detroit's Michigan Central Station is *plenty* large enough to have US and Canadian customs facilities and three different access paths to the platforms (one for domestic trains, one for departures to Canada, one for arrivals from Canada) to satisfy whatever Customs & Immigration wants. It seems quite feasible to me, and apparently Ford who owns the building is cooperative.
I agree. This is not hard. MC is the right place for Amtrak’s Detroit station. We can certainly do customs clearance there for both US and Canada. This corridor will be a huge winner.
 
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I agree. This is not hard. MC is the right place for Amtrak’s Detroit station. We can certainly do customs clearance there for both US and Canada. This corridor will be a huge winner.
The Ontario Provincial Government was committed to making this work prior to the pandemic. I was on a "mailing list" at the time and received material on the subject. There was concern that they would attempt to operate GO-style bilevels on the route, which has partly come to fruition with recently introduced service to London - approximately halfway. This service itself takes almost 4 hours, so the equipment choice would probably need review. Seating on GO Transit is not up to long distance standard.
 

west point

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Just cannot see spending money in Canada. There is a real problem with VIA and Amtrak equipment. They do not do nice with HEP as Canada uses a slightly higher voltage and the wiring of HEP is different on both locos and passenger cars.
 

leccy

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My uninformed guess is that either a Detroit to Toronto train (with a Canadian customs and immigration pre-check at Detroit terminal) or a Windsor to Chicago train (with US pre-check at Windsor) would be plausible. A through Chicago to Toronto train would be too hard without detraining everyone at the border a-la Niagara :(
 
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